Current safety-net programs too often discourage recipients from achieving long-term self-sufficiency, but a new holistic approach called empowerment accounts would help recipients achieve this with existing resources.

Key points

  • Government safety-net programs too often encourage work-capable recipients to remain dependent upon them, harming the very people they are supposed to help.
  • Previous policy solutions to mitigate these perverse incentives have not worked well, demanding a different approach.
  • Our proposed new program, called empowerment accounts, is an innovative, improved solution that provides a holistic approach to help recipients find self-sufficiency.
  • An empowerment account replaces a complex set of safety-net programs with a simpler, more flexible debit card payment along with greater access to work and social capital.
  • Texas and other states could start a pilot program for empowerment accounts for eligible recipients, who would forgo current programs, to support an improved path to long-term self-sufficiency.